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"It's crazy that a little bug can do this!" she wrote in a shocking video post that's been shared more than 500,000 times. 

Amanda MacMillan
May 22, 2017

A mother’s Facebook post has gone viral after she posted a frightening video of her young daughter struggling to stand, walk, and use her arms. Amanda Lewis says her little girl was partially paralyzed from a tick bite, and she's warning other parents to be on the lookout for similar symptoms in their children or pets.

The story has a happy ending: After witnessing daughter Evelyn’s strange behavior on the morning of May 13, Lewis and her husband rushed the girl to the emergency room, where doctors recognized her symptoms and removed a tick hiding in her hair. Evelyn began feeling better the next morning, Lewis wrote in an update to the post, and is now “pretty much completely back to her feisty little self.”

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In her post, Lewis recounted how Evelyn’s scary symptoms progressed quickly. “Evelyn started acting a little weird last night around bedtime,” she wrote. “She didn’t want to stand up after her bath to get into her pajamas.” In the morning, Evelyn “could barely walk, or crawl, and could hardly use her hands." Her parents took some video they thought might help with a diagnosis, then took her straight to the hospital.

Evelyn was checked out right away, and a doctor at the hospital told her parents that he’d seen about seven or eight children with symptoms like hers in the last 15 years. He suspected she had been bitten by a tick and was suffering from tick paralysis—a rare condition that can cause respiratory failure if left untreated.

 

Sure enough, the doctors found a dog tick while combing through Evelyn’s hair. After removing the tick, they told Lewis that Evelyn’s symptoms should subside in a couple of hours. A few days later, Lewis posted that Evelyn “complains a lot about her head itching but otherwise she’s just fine.”

“The ticks are out like crazy right now in this area so if your children or dogs start acting a little off, check them thoroughly for ticks!” added Lewis, who lives in eastern Oregon. “I feel awful for not having seen the little bugger sooner but I never would have even thought to look for a tick.” Her post has since been shared more than 500,000 times.

Tick paralysis can be caused by several species of ticks, including deer ticks (which can also carry Lyme disease) and dog ticks (which can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever). Evelyn’s doctors said she’s unlikely to develop Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne illness, because she was bitten by a dog tick—but Lewis said they’re keeping an eye out for more strange symptoms, just in case.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tick paralysis is a “rare disease thought to be caused by a toxin in tick saliva.” It’s often confused with other neurologic disorders or diseases, including Guillain-Barre syndrome and botulism.

Paralysis typically starts in the lower body and makes its way up the body; fortunately, symptoms usually subside within 24 hours of removing the tick that’s responsible. Most human cases of tick paralysis in the United States have been reported in children or elderly adults.

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Experts have warned that this year could be the worst year on record for tick-related illnesses across the United States, especially in the Northeast and northern Midwest where Lyme disease is most prevalent. Recent reports about an apparent uptick in cases of Powassan virus—a rare but dangerous virus also carried by deer ticks—also have health officials and outdoor enthusiasts concerned.    

If you find a tick that’s already attached itself to your or your child’s skin, experts say it’s best to use a pair of tweezers to grasp as close to the skin as possible, then pull straight out. (Here’s a video.) Strategies for avoiding tick bites in the first place—like wearing light colors, long pants, and insect repellant while spending time outdoors, and putting clothes in the dryer and showering as soon as you come inside—are also smart for the whole family.